Blog Tour: Q&A with Wendy Halperin

Today's post is part of the "Fins, Wings, and Other Things" blog tour that Peachtree Publishers is sponsoring in honor of Earth Day. Every day between April 11th and Earth Day (April 22nd), there will be special blog tour posts around the blogsophere. For a collective listing, check out the Peachtree Pub blog!

(Rebecca) Wendy, thanks so much for agreeing to do a Q&A session with me! I absolutely loved your illustrations for "Planting the Wild Garden" and wanted to find out more ...
... The illustrations are so naturalistic, I'm guessing you must be an nature-lover/outdoorsy type? How much do you draw from your own experiences or interests when illustrating something like "Planting the Wild Garden"? 
(Wendy) Typically I do not cartoon my work as I find the natural world so interesting. In order to draw something it helps to understand it. To draw people and animals it helps to understand their skeleton. To draw a bicycle it helps to see the engineering of the chain and 2 circles of different sizes. In drawing seeds it was an experience of looking closely at the plant, where it lives, what the winds are, what the rainfall is and what wildlife is that lives in it's area. The plants are masters of adaptation and I thoroughly enjoyed the research in creating "Planting the Wild Garden". There is a place in England where they have archived seeds from around the world. Seeds are a great place to kick start the WONDER of nature. Once you see a seed you start to wonder how it is designed to travel. It is also amazing to see the amount of seeds a plant makes, as they are quite productive. I love it that some seeds have little pockets of air to make them float down a stream or lake. The coconut is truly amazing seed as it can travel for over 5,000 miles , land on a sandy beach all set with water and food for the new tree to begin. I will be forever changed after illustrating this book as to my own personal curiosity. I found many wonderful books to work on this project and I would like to recommend 2 to those getting interested in seeds:  Karl Blossfeldt by Taschen (black and white photographs of plants) and "Seeds" by Kesseler and Stuppy by Firefly.

Do you have a favorite subject to illustrate? 
I love the human experience and relationships.I enjoy researching different cultures. I like to draw compassion, friendship, people helping each other, children picking up litter and through drawing describe what  "caring"  might look like. I love to draw different definitions of home, school, or the neighborhood  and be a little window to a bigger world so children might think "that's interesting" there are so many different ways to live. Since illustrating "Planting the Wild Garden" I would like to do more work about the natural world. 

I was looking at the prints and images on your website - and a lot of them have the same "layered details" that these illustrations have. They sort of remind me of art quilts. When you start to illustrate a book or page, do you see the finished product in terms of the central image with all the supporting details surrounding it, or does each one just evolve? 
They tend to evolve with editors, authors and art directors all playing a collective part. I like the flexibility of multiple images to tell a bigger story.

What made you decide to go into book illustration? 
Karla DeVito a high school friend called me one day with a book her father-in-law had written, so I got into illustrating quite accidentally. It was  then that my work got in front of a wonderful editor, Richard Jackson and we started working together. I majored in illustration at Pratt Institute so was familiar with illustration. I was painting still lifes and portraits at the time Karla called. 

Would you ever do anything different? 
I paint furniture for a "break" from illustrating.

I also have been helping teachers and children learn to draw our world from bugs to ballerinas to bulldozers. If you visit drawingchildrenintoreading.com you will see the drawing project.It is using drawing to strengthen fine motor skills and develop wonderful handwriting.

I am also starting to work with environmental educators and develop drawing instruction for drawing wildflowers, invasive species, fish, trees, ferns, SEEDS!, mosses, garden plants, etc.We are working together to "DRAW" children outdoors.

I would like to illustrate a book about skeletons , they call it comparative anatomy in the sciences. I find that subject fascinating and my goal would be a deeper understanding of the animals and an enhanced compassion. 

What was your favorite book to read growing up? 
"The Wind in the Willows " I fell in love with those characters.

Who was - or is - your favorite illustrator? 
I like so many for very different reasons. It would be very hard for me to pick one as I would leave so many out.  I particularly like to find old books with illustrators from the early 1900's also. I just picked up an old Raggedy Andy book last weekend, and another book about trucks with beautiful illustrations. 

In the spirit of the blog tour theme "Fins, Wings, and Other Things" - what is your favorite animal? And if you could have any one animal as a pet, what would it be? 
I particularly like chickens as they deserve a pleasant life after all they have done for us. I like to give chickens a pleasant surrounding and freedom. From my experience chickens prefer to sleep in trees and in the morning open their wings and glide to the ground.

Thanks so much for joining me, Wendy!
Giveaway Alert:
Thanks to the generosity of the great folks at Peachtree Publishers, I am delighted to announce that I am going to be giving you the chance to win a copy not only of this book, but of the other three titles I'm reviewing as part of the blog tour also! That's four wonderful new books you could win! Entering is simple: Check back here, and leave a comment on one of the "Fins, Wings, and Other Things" posts - only comments on blog tour posts count, but you can comment on every one (that means you could get 5 entries total!). On April 30th, I will randomly select a winner, and contact you. So please, leave me an email or some way to get in touch with you! Contest only open to the US. Good luck!

For more blog tour fun, be sure to check out another of today's stops: There's a Book!

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